Hammer Time: Dogfight!

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
hammer time dogfight

No, we’re not talking about becoming the official web site for Michael Vick. This one involves two stronger dealers in a financial wrestling match. Yesterday afternoon there was a rarely used camper conversion van at the Carmax sale. The model year was 1993. It was a Chevy Van (of 1970s singing fame) with a mini fridge, plastic toilet, furnace and all the hookups you would need to go camping. A very nice package with only 43,000 original miles. The prior owner had been in the military and kept it all in tip-top shape. But then THEY arrived . . .

I knew there was something wrong when the keys were locked in the vehicle from the early get go. The buyers at Carmax were immediately on it. But even getting through the seal was a challenge due to the design of the door. I offered my New Jersey upbringing as a means for prying said lock. But that thing was tight. One of the dealers in the free for all waited about twenty minutes before the lock was prodded and the vehicle became open again. The heat index was 100°+ and this being the second long sale of the day, no one was in a happy mood.

In the meantime the sale started. 105 vehicles followed an orderly procession as the prices zoomed headlong into tax season levels. $2000 for a 1997 Plymouth Breeze with low miles and a bad engine? Sure! Another $2K for a base 1998 Grand Caravan with no rear air? Why the heck not. A 2000 Ford Contour that runs only on compressed natural gas for $1500. Okey-dokey. The larger buy here – pay here lots were trying to scavenge whatever they could and even the larger wholesalers found themselves on the defensive. It was clear I was going to become a true casual observer for most of the afternoon.

Then it happened. The van trudged through the lane with the auctioneer giving a very full description of the prior owner and the vehicle. The price went down . . . $7000, $6000, $5000 . . . all the way to $3000 until the van finally got the money. Five bidders became three bidders and by $3800 only two bidders remained in the fight. The first fellow gave the usual dealer stare with the finger pointed at themselves that says, “I’m on it. I want this one. Please leave it alone.” The second dealer gives an ear to ear grin pointing at his Dad which means, “I’m buying it for my Dad. He really wants it.” Dealer #1 mouthed out the word “Bullshit!” and the fight was on. The hundreds and fifties piled up until the second dealer became the winning bidder at $5650 (plus $200 auction fee).

Everyone was laughing, including the Dad, and only two fellows were oblivious to it all. Afterward the winning dealer told me he was really going to be keeping it for his Dad. But he told me the same exact line two months ago when we were dogfighting over a grey market Mercedes S-Class. I guess the old dogs of this business never get tired of using the same old tricks.

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  • BigOldChryslers BigOldChryslers on Aug 20, 2009

    I had a 1984 GMC 3/4 ton van with the 6.2L diesel as a daily driver. It was a full window van with 2 bench seats in the back and full interior and carpetting, all factory equipment. I thought the handling in the snow was good, and very predictable. Turning radius was good for a vehicle of its size, better than my Dodge pickup anyhow. Acceleration was poor (no turbo on the diesel) and it wallowed a bit through the turns, but I was certainly happy with the fuel mileage, even when towing. I once test-drove a GM conversion van, much like the one pictured, but it also had a 6.2L diesel like mine. It would've made a poor replacement for my van: Top-heavy due to the raised roof, even slower acceleration due to the added weight, and less room for hauling passengers and stuff. From that brief encounter, I decided that a conversion camper van has too many compromises to be very good at anything. No sale.

  • Hal Hal on Aug 20, 2009

    @jckirlan for a used 7 passenger vehicle I think a 2007 KIA Sedona offers a decent deal. You get best in class safety (equal to the Odyssey). Decent reliability (better than the T&C, not as good as the Odyssey). The remainder of a 60k/5year warranty And basically all the features you need. If you want to buy new get an Odyssey. If you can't stand the thought of driving a van get a Ford Flex. For a large used sedan I like the Ford 500.

  • Tassos Before you rush to buy this heap of rusty metal, maybe you should wait a day or two.I hear Tim will have an Model T next time.
  • Redapple2 I d just buy one already sorted. Too many high level skills (wiring, paint, body panel fitment et. al.) that i dont have. And I dont fancy working 100 s of hours for $3 /hour.
  • 28-Cars-Later I'm actually surprised at this and not sure what to make of it. In recent memory Senator Biden has completely ignored an ecological disaster in Ohio, and then ignored a tragic fire in Hawaii until his handlers were goaded in sending him and his visit turned into it's own disaster, but we skipped nap time for this sh!t show? Seriously? We really are through the looking glass now, "votes" no longer matter (Hillary almost won being the worst presidential candidate since 1984 before he claimed the crown) and outside of Corvette nostalgia Joe doesn't care let alone know what day it happens to be. Could they really be afraid of Trump, who AFAIK has planned no appearance or run his mouth on this issue? Just doesn't make sense, granted this is Clown World so maybe its my fault for trying to find sense in a senseless act.
  • Tassos If you only changed your series to the CORRECT "Possibly Collectible, NOT Daily Driver, NOT Used car of the day", it would sound much more accurate AND TRUTHFUL.Now who would collect THIS heap of trash for whatever misguided reason, nostalgia for a much worse automotive era or whatever, is another question.
  • ToolGuy Price dropped $500 overnight. (Wait 10 more days and you might get it for free?)